Top Second-Chance Careers: Finding a Job with a Felony

Written by

Navigating the job market with a felony isn’t simple, but it’s not an impossible task either. Our guide dives into practical pathways to employment, spotlighting felon-friendly industries, small businesses and major companies that evaluate candidates beyond their records. In this article, you’ll find effective job-hunting strategies and critical resources that can turn the tide in your favor when searching for a job with a past conviction or felony.

Key Takeaways

  • Leverage federal incentives and job assistance programs to transform the challenges of job hunting with a felony into stepping stones for success.
  • Explore diverse opportunities in felon-friendly industries like technology, manufacturing, and retail. Explore skilled trades for a stable and high-earning career path.
  • Utilize networking, engage with community support services, and consider the gig economy or entrepreneurship for flexible job options and the potential for self-employment.

Overcoming Barriers: Job Hunting with a Felony

Job seeker reviewing job listings online

As a felon seeking employment, you may have faced challenges like employer reluctance, diminished benefits, and lower wages. However, perceive these not as stumbling blocks but as stepping stones towards your success.

While the obstacles might seem daunting, there are empowering strategies that you can leverage. Federal employer incentives like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the federal bonding program can become your allies. At the same time, you can lean on job assistance programs like Help for Felons, Jobs for Felons Hub, and for support and guidance.

Bear in mind, your previous conviction does not dictate your future. Utilize your felony record as a testament to your resilience and determination. Exhibit your dedication to personal and professional development which could lead to steady employment throughout your application process. Your track record of overcoming challenges will speak for itself.

Industries Embracing Second Chances

Construction site with diverse workers

Every cloud has a silver lining. Numerous sectors offer second chances to capable candidates with criminal records, including:

A multitude of felon-friendly employers are reshaping their hiring practices to promote diversity, inclusion, and offer equal employment opportunities through the implementation of fair hiring practices.

Why are these industries opening their doors to individuals with criminal backgrounds? The answer lies in the realization that many employers, by doing so, are tapping into a pool of intensely loyal employees and contributing to safer communities.

So, what kind of roles are up for grabs? Here are some examples:

  • Machine operators
  • Maintenance technicians
  • Customer service representatives
  • High-paying jobs in oil and gas companies
  • Remote office administration, copywriters, and marketing positions

The opportunities are plentiful. To find jobs in these industries it takes the right skills and the willingness to seize these opportunities.

Skilled Trades: A Felon-Friendly Path to Success

Welder working in a workshop

If you are keen on a fresh start, skilled trades for positions such as:

  • welding
  • electrician
  • HVAC technician, or
  • carpenter

can be your ticket to success. These trades not only offer substantial job opportunities but also the potential for high earnings and stable employment.

The job outlook for skilled trades in the United States is promising. With millions of jobs expected to remain open by 2028, the opportunity to reenter the labor market is ripe for the taking. Furthermore, obtaining a commercial driver’s license can open up a wealth of opportunities in the transportation industry, making it an excellent choice for those looking to secure a stable career with a commercial driver’s license.

Trade School Opportunities

Trade schools can be a game-changer for individuals with a criminal record and a high school diploma. They offer:

  • Faster and less expensive pathways to rebuilding lives and pursuing successful careers
  • Practical skills and career-focused training
  • In-demand jobs and higher earning potential

The Power of Networking

For job seekers with a felony conviction, networking serves as an influential tool. It facilitates the establishment of valuable connections, the acquisition of referrals, and overcoming hurdles during job hunting. But how can you effectively network? Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Be transparent and address convictions on job applications.
  2. Utilize traditional networking methods, such as attending industry events and joining professional organizations.
  3. Engage with community support services that specialize in assisting individuals with criminal records.
  4. Reach out to organizations dedicated to helping individuals with criminal records to achieve your networking goals.

By implementing these strategies, you can enhance your networking efforts and increase your chances to find a job.

By actively networking, fostering positive relationships, and helping others with their career aspirations, you can create a robust professional network. Resources such as provide structured plans for job searches and network enhancement.

Gig Economy: Flexibility and Opportunity

Delivery person with a package

A vibrant free market system, the gig economy provides temporary, flexible jobs to independent contractors and freelancers. This sector grants felons immense flexibility, empowering them to choose their work hours and manage their own schedules. The gig economy paves the way to a fresh start. It offers a range of opportunities for individuals looking to turn their lives around. Some of the best felon-friendly jobs include:

  • freelance writer
  • virtual assistant
  • service provider
  • customer service representative
  • various delivery app roles

To thrive in the gig economy, you can develop essential skills such as freelance writing, delivery driving, food delivery service, graphic design services, massage therapy, and data entry.

Ban the Box Employers

The inspiring ‘Ban the Box’ campaign advocates for:

  • The removal of the checkbox inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on job applications
  • Offering individuals with criminal records a fair shot at employment
  • Enabling employers to evaluate qualifications first, devoid of any conviction stigma.

Ban the Box enhances employment opportunities for individuals with felonies by eliminating conviction and arrest history questions from job applications and postponing background checks until later in the hiring process.

The ‘Ban the Box’ initiative is supported by numerous companies, including transportation companies like American Airlines and Uber, as well as Xerox, Unilever, Starbucks, Prudential, Facebook, the Coca-Cola Company, and Koch Group.

Major Companies Opening Doors

Did you know that major companies like Amazon and Starbucks are changing lives? These businesses have adopted policies that give individuals with criminal backgrounds a fair chance at employment. Amazon evaluates felony convictions on a case-by-case basis following EEOC guidelines, and Starbucks considers the type of crime and its recency when hiring people.

Google’s inclusive hiring model is designed to provide opportunities to individuals with felony convictions as part of their commitment to diversity and inclusion. You can apply for jobs at major companies like Amazon, Google, and Starbucks through programs specifically designed to hire felons or ex-offenders. These companies provide a list of open positions for which they are willing to consider candidates with a felony conviction. Some examples of these positions include:

  • Warehouse associates
  • Customer service representatives
  • Data entry clerks
  • Maintenance technicians
  • Baristas

By participating in these programs, convicted felons can have a chance to rebuild their lives and find meaningful employment with companies or temp agencies that hire felons.

Pursuing Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur working in a modern office

Entrepreneurship breathes new life into felons’ career paths. It gives you the opportunity to establish your own business and dictate your hiring criteria. Instead of just being a job seeker, you become a job creator.

Despite past challenges, entrepreneurship allows you to:

  • Take responsibility for your successes and failures.
  • Transform your strengths and interests into a profitable business.
  • Take advantage of business grants to support your entrepreneurial journey.

Volunteering and Internships: Building Experience

For individuals with a felony, volunteer work can serve as an effective method to exhibit their skills and work ethic, acquire invaluable experience, and forge solid community connections. It’s an opportunity to unlock your full potential and pave the way for a successful career.

Internships offer job seekers with a criminal background the chance to gain valuable work experience, which can be added to their professional resumes. This helps them enhance their skills and boosts their chances of finding employment.

There are numerous volunteering opportunities available for individuals with a felony conviction. Some organizations that provide such opportunities to ex-felons include:

  • VolunteerMatch
  • Jails to Jobs
  • The Next Door Project
  • American Bar Association

Resources for Job Seekers with Criminal Records

Several resources can assist job seekers with a criminal background. Some of the most beneficial job search websites for those with criminal records include Honest Jobs and Indeed. The National H.I.R.E. Network and the Second Chance Business Coalition (SCBC) are also leading the way in providing support and guidance to individuals with a felony conviction.

There are even more non-profit organizations such as The Clearinghouse and Jobs for the Future that are actively assisting job seekers with criminal records. Furthermore, government initiatives like Help for Felons, Jobs for Felons Hub,, and the Federal Bonding Program are available to support felons seeking employment.

Tips for a Successful Job Interview

Job interviews can induce anxiety, particularly for individuals with a criminal record. Nevertheless, by demonstrating your honesty and resilience, you can transform the interview into a platform to impress your potential employer.

During the interview, it’s important to highlight your relevant skills in relationship to the experiences required, and specialized abilities that match the employer’s requirements. Emphasizing your strengths and how they can make a positive impact on the role is crucial.

Highlighting the skills you’ve acquired, possibly during incarceration, and demonstrating how these are relevant to the new job, can showcase your determination and commitment to rehabilitation.

Legal Rights and Protections

The Fair Chance Act is a significant law that prohibits most employers from questioning an applicant’s criminal record until a job offer has been extended. This protective measure is a stride towards dismantling employment barriers and halting discrimination rooted in criminal history at the outset of job applications.

In addition to postponing inquiries about criminal history, the Fair Chance Act guarantees that employers prioritize the applicant’s qualifications and only take criminal history into account when relevant to the job, allowing applicants to be fairly assessed based on their skills and abilities.

The EEOC’s guidelines empower job seekers with criminal backgrounds by advising employers against unfair policies that could disproportionately disadvantage certain individuals. By promoting individualized assessment and considering various factors, the EEOC aims to give these job seekers a fair chance to showcase their qualifications and rehabilitation.


Embarking on a job hunt with a criminal record can seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. With the right strategies and resources, you can overcome barriers, find rewarding employment, and even start your own business.

Remember, your past doesn’t define your future. Use it as a stepping stone towards greater opportunities and remember that every setback is a setup for a comeback. Each step you take brings you one step closer in the right direction and to success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest paying job for a felony?

You can aim for high-paying positions such as digital marketer, freelance copywriter, or freelance graphic designer, with national average salaries ranging from $60,245 to $64,686 per year. Salaries are highly dependent on the state in which you live. Consider honing your skills and pursuing opportunities in these fields. Good luck!

What is the best degree to get as a felon?

Consider pursuing a degree in fields like healthcare, technology, or business to increase your job prospects after incarceration. These industries offer opportunities for people with a criminal background to build successful careers.

How do you answer “have you ever been convicted of a felony”?

When asked about past felony convictions, it’s best to be honest and upfront. You can simply write “will discuss in interview” on the application, and in the interview, briefly explain what you’ve learned and how you’ve changed. Be sure to check out the Fair Chance Act noted above to understand what future employers are allowed to ask, both on the resume and during an interview.

What are some high-paying skilled trades for felons?

You can pursue welding, electrician, HVAC technician, and carpentry as these are high-paying skilled trades for felons. These options offer good opportunities for a stable and well-paying career.

  • Beverly Mapes

    Beverly is a business owner and operator since 2008 and is actively involved in the human resources functions and employee management of her team members.